Australia: Partnership for the future of aviation takes off in Hunter

SOURCE: Craig Barrett/Royal Australian Air Force/AFP
The Royal Australian Air Force's first F-35A Lightening II aircraft.

By U2B Staff 

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An advisory committee is exploring the possibility of establishing a presence for the University of Newcastle at Astra Aerolab, a globally-significant defence and aerospace precinct being developed near the Newcastle Airport.

This is among the few areas of collaboration being considered under a Memorandum of Understanding inked last week between the parties. The agreement connects the university as a primary research partner with Newcastle Airport, which will set up a range of work-integrated learning opportunities to support university students.

“We recognise the significant impact Newcastle Airport has in our region and we welcome the formalisation of this important relationship,” Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky said in a media release.

“This partnership is an excellent example of the region’s university and local industry working in collaboration to drive regional economic growth and achieve global impact.”


In addition, a university hub at Astra Aerolab allows the institution to conduct critical research in a real-world context, contributing towards efforts to establish the Hunter region as a future leader in the fields of aviation, defence and aerospace-related research, education and industry.

“Astra Aerolab has strong momentum and working closely with a tertiary partner of University of Newcastle’s calibre is essential in delivering the uplifting experience for the many business and thousands of individuals who will be working at the site,” Newcastle Airport Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Cock said.

“With the university’s ongoing focus and investment in innovation, this is a well-aligned partnership which will provide the foundations at both a local and global level for students to not only qualify for roles in future industry but to succeed,” he added.

The Astra Aerolab precinct, which sits on 76 acres of prime land in Port Stephens, New South Wales, directly adjoins the thriving airport and the RAAF Base Williamtown, Australia’s primary defence fighter base. 

future of aviation
A diagram of Astra Aerolab’s location near the airport. Source: Astra Aerolab

With a AU$11.7 million funds injection from the New South Wales government and a promise to deliver over 5,500 jobs to the region for construction, and service and maintenance of Australian fighter jets, the precinct is being touted as the country’s pre-eminent space for innovation in aviation, defence and aerospace-related manufacturing, maintenance, research and education.

Upon completion, it will offer a home to global aviation firms and support the Royal Australian Air Force combat aircraft, including the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.

According to reports, BAE Systems Australia, one of the country’s largest defence contractors, would employ 400 highly-skilled individuals to support the fleet during its estimated three-decade lifespan.


From its strategic location, the site also provides direct airside access and state-of-the-art facilities to diverse industries looking to co-locate and collaborate with other innovators.

University of Newcastle Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Deborah Hodgson described the partnership as a fantastic opportunity for the institution to embark on cutting-edge research with industry leaders, securing the future of Greater Hunter region as a leader in defence, aviation and beyond.

“We want our researchers and students to be intertwined with industry, working on challenges. Our relationship with Newcastle Airport will be a very positive step in that direction,” Professor Hodgson said.